By the grace of God, my kinfolk and I are Carolinians. . . . We are interested in our ancestors -- they were us in another age.
Ben Robertson, Red Hills and Cotton
The importance of family in the South, while long noted, has been little studied.1 This history of family and community in nineteenth-century Edgefield, South Carolina, is intended to convey the enormous richness and complexity of family and community life, a life complicated by the violent strains of slavery, Civil War, freedom, Reconstruction, and Redemption.2
In My Father's House investigates the actual experience of nineteenth- century Edgefield families by comparing black and white families within a single large community and by exploring the differences and similarities between the values of southern whites and Afro-Americans.* This study shows the ties that bound black and white together -- ties of exploitation and oppression, of charity and cooperation. It examines the cultural values and standards of behavior that parents and community leaders taught their children, the questions of infidelity, illegitimacy, one-person households, and single-parent families. Finally, it shows how different classes were tied together by life on the land and a common commitment to the preservation of "southern values."
This book is the product of a thorough study of letters and family histories, newspapers, former slave narratives, and local government and church records. Works drawing on such traditional sources tend to focus on the elite and therefore give an incomplete understanding of the agrarian South. This volume, however, tries to merge traditional historical sources with statistical analyses of census information on every household, family, and farm in the area.† This comprehensive data base and the great amount of archival material____________________